The Compass Point


The Compass Point
Funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
The Compass Point, which can be seen from the garden entrance, draws people to the heart of Walkden Gardens. The project is a joint venture by the Friends of Walkden Gardens, local ceramic artist Gordon Cooke, pebble mosaicist Jeanette Ireland and Trafford MBC. It comprises a stoneware edging which gives directions to various parts of the gardens; granite slabs which show the points of the compass and a decorative inner disc of pebble mosaics. The whole circle is 4.9 meters in diameter.
The Compass Point Project was funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Friends of Walkden Gardens are immensely grateful for their support.

Design by Gordon Cooke

Following a period of consultation with the Friends of Walkden Gardens, Gordon Cooke designed the ‘Compass Point’. The design addressed many issues. It upgraded a badly shaped, worn footpath in need of repair. It addressed the issue of signage in the Gardens but subtly, without loosing sight of the local name for the Gardens, ‘the Maze’. It allowed safe and secure use of ceramics in a public artwork and it acknowledged its location on site as a parting of the ways, or a meeting place, on the many routes around the Gardens. The work utilised high quality materials and artworks and it integrated well with the surrounding landscape. The design was displayed for comments in Walkden Garden’s noticeboard and feedback from the garden users was positive.

Unglazed Trial pieces by Gordon Cooke

Work started in autumn 2006. Gordon Cooke produced trial piece of stoneware edgings. Ceramics shrink considerably when fired, so as well as a trial of the construction, lettering, and glazes, the trial allowed him to estimate the final size of the circle!

excavation and concreting of foundation.

Work on site started in November 2006 when volunteers from FOWG and head gardener, Mike Girling excavated for the concrete foundation.

Ceramics laid out in Scout Hut and filling with concrete

Gordon Cooke worked over Christmas 2006 into the New Year creating the 39 separately fired ceramic pieces with ash and dolomitic glazes. By mid February all the pieces were complete, laid out in the scout hut and the finished diameter measured. Final dimensions could then be given for the pebble mosaic, the black granite pointers, the sandstone slabs and the curved steel protective angle. The edgings were then filled with concrete. For more images of Gordon’s work visit

The pebble mosaics being created

Working in her studio near Lancaster, pebble artist, Janette Ireland created the pebble mosaic for the Compass Point in nine precast segments. By mid March the work was complete and curing ready for installation. For more images of Janette’s work visit

Images of ceramic edging lain out to dry after sealing

On the FOWG work day at the end of March, volunteers applied sealant to the ceramics and laid them out to dry in the sun.

Images of steel edging being installed

During April,Trafford MBC infrastructure team, lead by Malcolm Brownhill and Colin Smith, fabricated and installed a protective edging of galvanised steel angle.

Images of ceramic edging being installed

Gordon Cooke, head gardener Mike Girling and volunteers then installed and grouted the ceramic edgings into their final positions.

Images of installing pebble mosaics

On 10th May, Janette Ireland transported the precast mosaics from her workshop and with considerable care installed them into the centre of the Compass Point.

Images of sandstone and granite pointers being installed

The final pieces of the jigsaw were completed by Trafford MBC infrastructure team. They laid Woodhead sandstone slabs, specially cut by Farrar Natural Stone and flame textured black granite pointers, supplied by Roberto Marble and Granite.

Gordon Cooke, head gardener Mike Girling and volunteers worked very hard in our May workday raise levels and complete the pathways around the Compass Point in time for public access on 29th May and our Green Flag inspection on 1st June.

The designer of the project and maker of the ceramic elements
Gordon Cooke

Nicholas Payne, chairman of the National Garden Scheme formally opens the Compass Point

Janette Ireland, pebble artist, pictured at the opening

The project was formally opened on 8th July by the chairman of the National Gardens Scheme, Nicholas Payne, followed by teas in the dovecote.

We would like to receive your views on this project. Please email Penny Maitra at Friends of Walkden Gardens: Friends of Walkden Gardens